Amid the worsening situation in war-ravaged Ukraine, around 1,000 Indian students of the Odessa National Medical University are stuck in the middle of the conflict and are appealing to the government to ensure their safe return.
Two Indian students from Gurugram's Bhondsi village narrated their ordeal to IANS over a phone call from the Odessa region of Ukraine and appealed for help.
Ankit Raghav, a 22-year-old student of MBBS fourth year and 24-year-old Prateek Chauhan, a fifth year student at Odessa National Medical University on Saturday said they are at their flat located near the varsity.
They told IANS that the situation is "very alarming" as they could hear the sound of bomb blasts and shelling throughout the day.
"Currently, I am in the Odessa region of Ukraine and the situation is pretty bad. We can not move out as I hear the sound of bomb blasts over the night. Also, we have received messages from the Indian embassy that if we move out, it will be our responsibility," Ankit told IANS over the call.
"We received messages from the Indian embassy to reach the Romanian border for our safe evacuation but it is not possible for us to travel 500 to 600 km through the affected regions of Ukraine to reach Romania or Hungry," he asserted.
"So, we have written emails to the Ministry of External Affairs (India) urging them to develop communication with Moldova, which is just 80 km from Odessa. We can reach there easily in groups via cabs and buses. The government should send aircraft to Moldova which is the safest evacuation point for around 1,000 Indian students," he said.
The students alleged that they wanted to return to India when the Indian government "warned" about the worsening situation but the university "threatened them of expulsion and forced them to stay".
"The students wanted to leave Ukraine but the University threatened them and warned that if they left they will be expelled and assured the students that nothing will happen over here and we all are safe," Ankit said.
"Odessa is an important port city of Ukraine and we all are staying very close to the port... so the Russian army may launch attacks here anytime soon," he asserted.
A lot of people are here. Not just Indians, people from countries like Israel and Nigeria are also trapped, he said.
Prateek Chauhan told IANS that the Indian students are not just worried about the Russian attacks, they are also forced to fend off armed burglaries amid a severe food shortage.
"This was my fifth year, next year I will complete my MBBS and become a doctor but the ongoing tussle has triggered panic among the students. Now, nights are a nightmare for us, we could not sleep properly... However, we are in our flats and have food for next few days but we are in a 'state of shock' and are sleeping in turns," Prateek Chauhan explained.
"The another problem which we are facing is that the Ukrainian government has provided arms to its citizens, who are robbing people's money and food items on gun points," Chauhan added.
He said that the Indian embassy advised the students to stay indoors and if somehow they are trying to reach bunkers, make sure that the shelters have proper arrangements of food and ventilation.
The families of these two students were worried about the tense situation in the war-torn country.
"We are in touch with our children, but we are restless and could not sleep since past three days. However, the Indian government is doing its job for the safe evacuation of the students but we urge the government to take more steps for the evacuation of students stuck across the Ukraine," Ankit's father, Gopal Singh Raghav, told IANS.
"It is very disturbing when we see shelling videos in Ukraine and parents protesting in the national capital for their children. Women in our house could not stop their tears. We just pray for all parents whose children are stuck over there. We hope that our children will return home soon," Prateek's father, Rajender Singh Chauhan told IANS.